U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania met at the Pentagon on August 22nd.
Irakli Alasania meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, August 23
According to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense, Secretary Hagel "acknowledged Georgia’s continuing contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and thanked Minister Alasania for the sacrifices Georgia’s soldiers and their families are making."
According to the statement, Hagel praised Georgia’s efforts to enhance civilian oversight of the armed forces, as these actions are a strong example of democratic progress through defence reform.
Hagel expressed American support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, and highlighted last year's fair parliamentary elections and the continuation of consolidating democratic gains as effective measures to advance those efforts. The two leaders agreed to continue to broaden United States-Georgian defence cooperation.
After the meeting, Alasania stressed that he "received a guarantee for Georgia’s territorial integrity and NATO integration will be permanent components of U.S. –Russian dialogue."
"Those two topics will be the parts of the dialogue until Russia realizes it needs to de-occupy our territory." Alasania said, adding that the Georgian side is interested in a peaceful holding of the Sochi Winter Olympics next February.
"Thus, the United States, as well as our regional partners, welcome Georgian steps to be in coordination with the region’s states regarding contra-terrorist issues, including with the Russian Federation." Alasania stated.
The former United States Permanent Representative to NATO, Kurt Volker, told the Georgian section of the Voice of America that the alliance keeps repeating at each and every meeting that Georgia will become a NATO member, which, in his opinion, is very good because talks on this issue continue. However, he noted that the speed of enlargement has slackened inside NATO itself. Volker believes that this might pose a problem to Georgia's accession in the near future.
Volker also believes that having positive relations with Russia is better for Georgia. However, Volker warned that trying to improve relations with Russia might not bring about the de-occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"Russia does not hide that it wants to distance itself from Georgia and continue the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow will do its best to maintain its influence in Eastern Europe and decrease the West’s involvement there. It is the Russian aim. It is good that the Georgian government is trying to improve relations with Russia. However, they should also take into account what place Georgia has in Russia's grand geo-political strategy." Volker said.
Concerning Georgian-US partnership in the field of defence, Volker stated that the Georgian defence sector needs reforming and the two sides are collaborating effectively in this regard. He also commented on why the U.S. has refrained from selling weapons to Georgia.
"Purchasing weapons has no benefit if a clear cooperation strategy does not exist. Reforms in this field are not yet concluded." Volker said.